Wednesday, April 28, 2010

God's Sovereignty Over Time

How can God have always existed if time has a beginning? This and similar questions often grace my path as a teacher of young students. One paradigm has helped me answer them, and I want to share it with you.

It is mind boggling to think of God as always having existed. He has lived forever and will still live as long as we do. This teaching can become problematic as we deal in terms of creationism versus theories like the Big Bang. One argument against the latter theory is that it is impossible for an actually infinite number of things to exist; also the second law of thermodynamics indicates that the universe is “winding down” from a point of higher usable energy. Is God subject to these laws?

In other words, how can one say God has always existed and that matter can't have always existed?

To answer this question, I have the help of two great theologians: C.S. Lewis and St. Augustine. Lewis argues in Mere Christianity that God's relationship to time is like the relationship between an author and her work.
“Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another...He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer... Suppose I am writing a novel... Between writing the first half of that sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think.” (pp. 167-168; HarperSanFrancisco, 2001 edition)
In my own words, God is not just on the entire timeline, he is outside the timeline. He created time itself. Therefore, to say God has always existed is an understatement. He invented both “existence” and the concept of “always.”

Augustine sheds more light on the issue in The City of God.
"...time does not exist without some movement and transition, while in eternity there is no change, who does not see that there could have been no time had not some creature been made, which by some motion could give birth to change...and thus, in these shorter or longer intervals of duration, time would begin? Since then, God, in whose eternity is no change at all, is the Creator and Ordainer of time, I do not see how He can be said to have created the world after spaces of time had elapsed, unless it be said that prior to the world there was some creature by whose movement time could pass. ... then assuredly the world was made, not in time, but simultaneously with time." (Book 11, The City of God)
In other words, if nothing changes, there is no passage of time. Therefore, God did not "wait" for time to pass before creating the world. He created time by the simple act of creating. Time and the world began at the same...time.

Time itself is subject to God. Therefore, issues like God existing within creation for ever are subject to this greater principle. God's immanence is explained by his transcendence.


  1. Anonymous12:11 PM

    This is really good! Is it original?

  2. With some conceptual help from Focus on the Family's "The Truth Project" and C.S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity."

  3. Dear Michael,
    Here is a very good anti-predestination argument formulated by a Catholic priest who is a former Calvinist himself, Fr. Paul Rothermel...

    A true Calvinist teaches that everything that happens has been predestined before the foundation of the world. Thus, according to Calvinism, because I have free agency and no true power to choose contraries (i.e., free will), I do voluntarily what I could never do otherwise.

    Thus, "My sins last week happened; they were certain to happen; and they were predestined before the foundation of the world. I freely did evil, but I could not have done otherwise."

    A true Calvinist admits this. Yet St. Paul teaches that, with every temptation, God has made a way to escape from committing the sinful deed (1 Cor 10:13). Therefore, the question for the true Calvinist is:

    "Which way did God, in fact, provide for you to escape the temptations to do the sins you committed last week, if indeed you are so inclined? That is, if you have been predestined before the foundation of the world to do it?"

    This is a clear hole in the Calvinist position, forcing one to conclude that Calvinism cannot be reconciled with St. Paul.

    Clearly, if Calvin is right and one is predestined to commit a particular sin before the foundation of the world, God could not have truly provided a way out of that sin for you to take.

    How could He if you were predestined not to take it? So, either Calvin is wrong or we are dealing with a God Who feigns offers of deliverance from temptation.

    So, which is it? Is God a fraud or is Calvin?

    Many thanks to Mark Bobocore.

    PS: Great BLOG!

    I wondered if you would send me the TEMPLATE CODE?

    God bless you
    Michael Gormley

  4. Thank you for the resources.


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